Seaside Shirley Valentine at Whitley Bay Film Festival

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Refreshments are essential at the Rendezvous
The Whitley Bay Film Festival is five this year. In a town without its own cinema, this week of wonderful  events is organised by Primate Productions, a not for profit film production company, who work together with  local residents, businesses and volunteers.
Girls’ night out


We’re not getting the latest CGI Blockbusters here, but classic cinema shown in a variety of unusual and creative venues including St Mary’s Lighthouse, the Beehive pub in Earsdon, the teeny tiny Jam Jar cinema (aptly named )  the Grand Hotel and the historic Rendezvous Café. We turned up in a female party, to the Rendezvous café as part of some double birthday celebrations to relive Shirley Valentine’s Greek adventure in search of herself some twenty years on.


Rendezvous at the Rendezvous


A visit to the Rendezvous café is  a charming retro experience. A coffee bar and ice cream parlour since the 1930’s you can still purchase a frothy espresso, a Knicker bocker glory or even a bucket and spade here should you so wish. The cafe overlooks our beautiful North sea coast as well St Mary’s Lighthouse and the causeway through some elegant arched windows, and it made for an excellent pop up cinema on this rather breezy August evening.


Cafe Society


Greeting us as we arrived was our very own Shirley Valentine sitting at a table outside with some wine staring out to sea. But then a bit of an icy squall blew in and she got a bit rain battered and had to retreat inside with her Ouzo. This is not Mykynos. We had a Greek (ish) band getting us into the mood before the film began and part way through the evening our Shirley lookalike distributed small plastic containers of Olives and Feta cheese to the audience in another attempt to Greek things up a bit.


Audience anticipation


Quick plot summary in case you don’t know it. Shirley is married to Joe who doesn’t appreciate her or communicate with her much after decades of marriage. She is a lonely ‘empty nester’ housewife who talks to the wall as a substitute for anyone who might really listen to her.


Not chips and egg again!


When her friend Jane wins a holiday for two to Greece and invites Shirley along, she finally takes the opportunity to escape her domestic drudgery and rediscover the feisty Shirley Valentine of her youth. She finds pleasure in the arms of Costa the Greek waiter and even more pleasure in the realisation that she might just be OK by herself, doing what she wants to do, rather than meeting the needs of her rather ungrateful family.


Time for the movie


The script is still sharp and funny as ever and although Shirley Valentine is a very funny comedy, it’s also a drama with quite a serious point. Today feminism seems to have become something an unpopular concept and I doubt if Shirley would have thought of herself that way, but that’s what she becomes really as she leaves Joe permanently and takes a job in the bar that Costa runs. She doesn’t fall for the man ‘Aren’t men full of shit!’ she comments to us while being made love to by the smooth talking Costa, but she falls for the idea of living for herself and having a bit more than the ‘little life’ she feels she has lived up until now. The most meaningful relationship you can ever have is with yourself. A bit deep, that.


Shirley starts to enjoys herself


The heart of the film is it’s characters, and this means it hasn’t really dated that much – even the clothes have had time to come back into fashion. (Yes, jump suits weren’t a good idea then and they’re not a good idea now..) Pauline Collins is superb as the ‘middle aged’ Shirley but she’s only 42! She is funny warm and totally believable and we all thoroughly enjoyed our evening Rendezvous.


Make mine a Babycham!
Escape to Alcatraz is being shown in the Lighthouse on Friday  – does anyone fancy going?


Luminous lighthouse